And what my answer to it was.
It’s my first interview in a while and I am sat there trying desperately to remain calm, observing the unspoken word as much as the spoken word to gauge how the interview is going. I really want to get this job.
I have two interviewers positioned across the table from me, both armed with pens and paper as they record their observations from the interview. Each of them taking it in turns to interrogate me with a selection of questions. It wasn’t a hostile interrogation, but my nerves and heart beat were telling me otherwise!
At this point the senior one of the two offered the next question.
“What had I learnt most about myself whilst being self-employed and why?”
What a great question! But why?
It’s a question that creates the opportunity to really smoke out the true character of the person who is being interviewed. Think about these answers.
“I learnt that I am a great salesperson, because I made lots of sales.”
“I learnt that I am a great manager.”
“I was really cut out to run my own business.”
If I had used any of these answers I would still be looking for a job today! Thankfully I didn’t.
My actual answer was as follows.
“Being self-employed made me appreciate the power of collaboration. Working on my own, I didn’t have someone to discuss and share ideas with. Someone who could offer a different perspective on the idea. Even though I am introvert, I believe I work better with others in a team environment and that it why I believe this role will suit me much better than being self-employed.”
After the interview I reflected upon all the questions and answers I had given but I was really drawn back to this question and the answer I gave. I think the question type is the one that most people dread in an interview.
Surprisingly, given the answer I hadn’t prepared for this question, I had focused on researching the company so that I could explain the history of the business, as well as talk about the market place they operated in. I had also checked my CV for the achievements I had declared and given some thought as to how I could embellish them (salesmen’s patter!).
The question caught me out a bit and I was temporarily put on the back foot, so buying some time I paused and said thoughtfully “That’s a good question”.
And then it came to me, when I had worked for others rather than on my own. I benefited from working with others when I could discuss and share ideas. Collaboration was what was missing from my business when I was self-employed and it made realise how much better I could be working with others in a team.
When you think about it, it’s the ultimate challenge for a self-employed person. We as humans are only standing here due to collaboration. It is the skill that truly sets us apart from every other species on the planet.
Other species can communicate, but only humans can uniquely collaborate, to share and discuss ideas and work together to achieve something. Every self-employed person must overcome that challenge, which is maybe why self-employed businesses rarely grow into bigger businesses.
That’s the best question I have had to face and overcome in an interview. The more I reflect, the more I realise how fortunate I was to come up with the answer I did. I think it demonstrates more than anything being calm and focused during the interview can influence a successful outcome, which I am delighted to say was the outcome to my interview.
What’s the best question you’ve faced in an interview and how did you answer it? Please let me know in the comments.